5 ways to build a mentally fit workplace culture

All you need on how to harness inner resources and boost productivity

“The grind” and “the hustle” are phrases used to describe a fierce work mentality. These notions are celebrated as productive and diligent, but they are actually killing your bottom line. This mentality is breaking your people.

2021 has brought on more change, more meetings, more emails, and more work than most of your people can handle, and we aim to change the focus from “work really hard” to “utilise your hardworking people well”. Creating a team that values mental fitness and harnesses their inner resources is the key to a more productive team. Plus, the risk is nil, and the ROI is high.

Before we can give you tips for building a mentally fit workplace, let’s first define mental fitness. It’s not to be confused with wellness. Mental fitness is harnessing your inner resources and working to your full potential. Mental fitness is your company’s hidden edge, and according to a case study of teams at Unilever by Symbia Partners in 2019, it’s responsible for a 15% increase in employee productivity. In short, mental fitness is your differentiator.

Here are five easy ways to build and maintain a mentally fit workplace:

1)           Normalise balance.

When employees are allowed to detach from work, that’s when creativity and problem-solving skills are honed. It’s why all the best ideas happen in the shower or on a quiet ride to work. Dedicated break time means dedicated employees who can bring their best energies to work for you.

So instead of plugging a “rise and grind” mentality, make your workplace a safe and encouraging place to take breaks. Encourage your team to take their vacation time. Avoid emailing people when they are out of the office and discourage them from emailing during holidays.

This can be applied to non-working hours and lunch breaks too. Utilise the “send later” button on emails and glamourise downtime.

2)           Get aligned: visions and values.

A fractioned team is not performing to its potential.

Aligning employees with their visions and values allows leaders to best utilise strengths and talents while avoiding burnout and resentment.

For example, learning that you have an employee who values “community” or “fun” means that you can provide opportunities to share their abilities by offering up opportunities to build company culture. (Bonus: Now you’ve got someone to plan a Zoom happy hour or company picnic.)

Gaining insight into visions and values means that you can create balanced teams as well as understand how to best reach and empathise with your employees. It’s easier to meet someone where they are when you know where they are.

3)           Mission “meeting critical”.

Hitting “accept” to all meeting invites should not be the default. Instead, ask questions like:

·             What is the objective of this meeting?

·             Why have I been invited to this meeting?

·             Will I be able to learn from, add, or enhance this discussion?

·             Is a post-meeting recap going to suffice?

All meetings are not mission-critical, especially because we’re on Zoom or Teams watching each other’s eyes dart across the screen as we fire off emails while we’re supposed to be participating.

Fewer meetings mean more focused work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and politely decline.

4)           Cultivate a growth mindset.

If the last two years have taught us anything in business, it’s that to maintain mental fitness, we must embrace change. Harnessing your employee’s potential to embrace difficulties and creatively problem-solve is achievable through intentional work around a growth mindset.

How can you create a growth mindset? Through harnessing the power of “yet”. We have found teams that practice using this simple mantra: “I am not good at this yet, but I will certainly improve if I… ” means focusing on the future, the struggle, and the ability to overcome.

5)           Protect your time

There are lots of hacks for protecting and utilising your team’s inner resources:

·             Block two hours every week with yourself in your calendar and use a unique project or event title. Use this time for deep thinking or focused work. You can even set up recurring workshops and brainstorm sessions with yourself under that same unique project title.

·             Always schedule 15 minutes between meetings to stretch, grab a coffee, or jot down action items coming out of a meeting or prep for the following meeting. Back-to-back meetings are not as efficient as 45-minute meetings with a break for reflection or preparation.

At Symbia Partners, we’ve increased productivity across hundreds of teams at brands like Unilever, Coca Cola, and Loreal. Through our extensive qualitative and quantitative research, we’ve found that teams who harness the inner resources of their employees are at a clear advantage. This research and experience birthed the book, The Hidden Edge: Why Mental Fitness is the Only Advantage in Business, which includes resources, case studies, and practical guidelines for harnessing the potential of your team.

Let’s stop grinding and hustling and half-heartedly turning up to Zoom meetings. Instead, let’s get intentional and centre our focus on the most valuable resource in business: our people. 


Jodie Rogers is a human behaviour consultant, founder of Symbia and author of The Hidden Edge: Why Mental Fitness is the Only Advantage That Matters in Business.

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